6 Ways to Preserve Herbs

how to preserve herbs

How you choose to preserve herbs you grow depends mainly on how you intend to use them.

Here are the how to’s and in some cases, the why to’s:

1. Drying- simply hang the bunch of herbs upside down in a brown paper bag. The bag not only keeps the spiders away, it will catch any leaves that may fall off the stems.

2. Freezing as is- A first generation Italian-American woman I knew many years ago told me that the best way to preserve basil was to just wrap the leaves in plastic and freeze. We also like to do this with chives, rolling them in the plastic in the form of a log. Then, just slice off what you need.

3. Freezing in oil- If what you are preserving will be cooked in oil anyway, placing the herbs in an ice cube tray, filling it with oil, then freezing works great. When frozen, simply remove to a freezer container and you are ready to cook.

4. Freezing in water- This is done the same way as the previous method but with water instead. This is a wonderful way to freeze herbs suited especially well for soups, such as chopped parsley.

5. Steeping in vinegar- Vinegar is a natural preservative and a great way to add flavors to many dishes. Simply soak the herb in white vinegar, or red if the color does not matter, then strain. Our personal favorite herb to use in this way is chive blossoms, pictured above. No mistaking that pretty pink color and the chance to enjoy the light taste of chives all year around.

6. Soaking in alcohol- Probably the least common way to preserve, alcohol will also take on the flavor of herbs and what you are making is an herbal extract. We prefer to use vodka, as it has less flavor of its own than many other liquors.
The difference in homemade mint extract for example, shown above, and the store bought stuff is about the same as the difference in tomatoes. Really.
Make this the same way you would the vinegar and use as you would a flavored extract. Just know you won’t need as much as the flavor will be much truer to the herb.


Categories: How to Store, other

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An Unexpected Experiment – Moo Poo Tea

Growing sweet potato slips.

The experiment begins.

The idea was to start sweet potato slips, to see if growing your own produced a better harvest per dollar spent vs. buying slips.
The other question we wanted to look at was whether or not it made a difference using a whole potato or cutting one.

Pretty basic stuff, really.
So it was about a month ago we started some organic sweet potatoes in the greenhouse.

Whenever needed, we would top off the water, and occasionally refresh it all together.

Growing sweet potato slips.

With on the left.

As it happened, it was time to refresh but the watering can was empty with only half the jars refilled.
There was a bucket of Moo Poo Tea at hand, so that was used instead.
Because of the way the jars were lined up, one each of a top and bottom half and one whole potato now had plain water, and the same had moo poo tea.

growing sweet potato slips

With on the left.

Never let an accidental experiment go unused, right?
That was about 2 weeks ago, and you can see the difference in each case.

Growing sweet potato slips.

With on the left.

And now we have even more variables to examine.

We were not compensated in any way to write this post, and did not do so because the ad for the product is on our site.
It is actually the other way around.
We accepted the ad because we love the product!

Categories: The Experiments

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Sundays in the Garden – with Christina Kamp

Christina Kamp

Social media has afforded us the wonderful opportunity to e-meet other gardeners and talented individuals; some of whose paths we otherwise might have never crossed.

We do so enjoy introducing them to you in our Sundays in the Garden series.

So without further eloquence, please meet one of our equaintances, Christina Kamp~

Hi, Gardening Jones and friends.

Here in Oklahoma we run a family childcare home, Little Sprouts Learning Garden. We have kids ages 1-11, and know that what kids eat is incredibly important to their growth and development.

We also feel that what is in our food supply is alarming, so for the past three years have taught the kids to grow chemical free food for themselves.
They are learning skills they can use for a lifetime.

In addition to the other activities we do at Little Sprouts, the garden teaches the kids social interaction, math, reading, and endless science lessons, so it’s a big part of what we do each day.

It also helps keep the kids active in a world where video games, computers, and television are king.
The benefits of gardening carry over into every area of learning, so it’s an amazing activity to do with kids.

Little Sprouts Learning Garden

The Sprouts.

Children are 80% more likely to try a food they helped grow, and that’s helping these Little Sprouts learn to like a whole lot more things than they did before we started the garden.

The kids also learn to cook, which encourages them to try new things.
The changes in them, and me, are amazing!

Childhood obesity and diet related illnesses are increasing in epic proportions. We need to do something now to change the future, especially here in the United States. The art of gardening, until recently has been dying slowly over time. It’s a skill that we can’t lose. We need it.

Little Sprouts Learning Garden

Look what we grew!

Our journey toward better food has been fun. I would LOVE to help other childcare providers, teachers, and others who work with kids to start gardens.

We have a book about our trials, failures and successes that hopefully will be published soon, that would help get the information people need to do that.

There is also information about it on a new blog called Little Sprouts Learning.

You can find us on Facebook for updates.

We would love for you to join us in our journey!

Categories: gardening people, places & things, sundays in the garden


How to Make a Vinegar Weed Killer

killing weeds with vinegar

Sprayed and not sprayed.

Until recently we thought using white vinegar as a weed killer was well known.
It has been around for a long time, and often is referred to as a ‘Grandma recipe’ because it is so old-timey.

We started using it many years ago, when we first read about the dangers of chemical herbicides such as the popular Roundup brand by Monsanto.

killing weeds with vinegar

Even dandelion damage.

We are especially happy we went to a natural herbicide after getting our free range chickens, and most importantly to us, after our grandson arrived.

There are a few variations on the recipe.
Some people dilute the vinegar, but we would think that would take more applications.
Others add things like tree oil or salt.

killing weeds with vinegar


Preferring to keep it simple, we just add about 2 Tbs. dish liquid to a gallon of white vinegar.

It is best to apply on a sunny day, as the light helps the acid burn the plant.
Some plants will take more than one application.

You can use any squirt-type bottle.
Mandolin likes this device, as he can get quite a bit of the yard in one trip.

killing weeds with vinegar

The tools.

Note that like all herbicides, vinegar does not discriminate between good plants and weeds, so be careful you don’t hurt what you want to save.

We only use the vinegar on garden paths, and away from the garden area.

In our part of the country there are still many people canning, so the vinegar usually goes on sale about this time of year.
We recently stocked up on a BOGO sale.

Effective, organic, and on the cheap…
You can’t beat that!

Categories: pests

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23 Things to Love About Growing Edibles

growing edibles

Future jelly, syrup or salad dressing.

Gardening and particularly growing edibles means many things to each individual, but there are also a lot of things we enjoy in common.

Perhaps you will find yourself here:

1. When the sunlight falls upon the water coming from the hose, and it makes a rainbow.
2. The smell of soil and the way it feels in your hands.
3. Seeing a seed sprout, and knowing what is to come.
4. Not having to read a food label.

growing onions

A year’s worth of onions.

5. Freedom from dependency on others for food.
6. The excitement of each new growing season.
7. The way the failures make the successes all the sweeter.
8. Grazing.

growing edibles

Thinning greens makes for lunch.

9. Finding new things to grow.
10. Getting unexpectedly hit by the sprinkler. A wee bit shocking, yes; but still fun on a hot day.
11. Filling the larder shelves.
12. Tomatoes. Jus’ sayin’.
13. The critters, all of them, both helpful and harmful.
14. Getting to know which veggie is which.
15. The ‘Do-over’ each year.
16. The Winter Withdrawal and planning time.
17. Botany. The Mad Scientist. The Muwahahaha! moments.
18. Seeing how different foods grow; like kohlrabi and walking onions.
19. The camaraderie with other food growers, sharing knowledge and info.

growing potatoes

Spuds for two.

20. Knowing exactly where your food came from and how long it took to get to your table.
21. Saving seeds for the future garden.
22. The stillness and meditative aspect of gardening.
23. Being in touch with and a part of life itself.

Categories: jonesen'


2 Ways to Thwart Birds

Keeping birds away from strawberries.

The mother lode.

There are two problems with birds in our roadside garden this time of year.
The first is that they are stealing seeds. Specifically, squash seeds.

They must be attracted by the newly turned soil and its promise of worms; the seeds they find are most likely just a bonus.
But of the 6 squash hills containing 3 seeds each, only one sprouted and one other was found to still be in a hill.

The other issue is that they are going after our June-bearing strawberries which were moved to a new location last year.
The bed they are in now makes using bird netting problematic, so another method needed to be found.

stopping birds from stealing seeds

Squash seeds cozy and safe.

A few years ago we heard a suggestion to paint stones bright red. The idea is that the birds come down to peck at what they think are berries, and when they are disappointed a few times they stop trying.

After all, there are other gardens and other strawberries that are much easier to eat.

So we solved both issues, we hope, by covering the squash hills with window screening, and holding those in place with the red rocks.

Come to me, my pretties.

Come to me, my pretties.

In the meantime we’ll keep an eye on those strawberry plants that are producing now, and hope the rocks left after the screening is removed help the ever-bearers all summer.
Long after the squash are all bearing as well.

stop birds from eating strawberries

Update 6/20/14:

It has been about 2 weeks and all of our squash plants are up and growing, and we have noticed a definite decrease in the number of berries bitten into. In this most recent small harvest, there was only 1 berry we had to toss out.

Categories: pests


Broccoli Raab – You Can Grow That!

broccoli raab

Perfect little harvest.

Newer to many home gardens than its brassica relatives, broccoli raab is gaining favor rapidly.
And for good reason.

Like cauliflower, cabbage and of course broccoli, you can start the seeds indoors to be ready to transplant about a month before the last spring frosts.
Similarly, it prefers cool weather and is perfect for that spot in the garden that gets a wee bit more shade than the rest.

broccoli raab

See the numerous side shoots?

It has a few advantages over the others, especially broccoli which has always been difficult for us to time just right.
Actually, that is one of the pros of broccoli raab; the timing doesn’t matter much.

You see, you can eat the mini heads even if they have started to flower. Just harvest the heads as they begin to mature.

Or, you can pick the entire plant when the heads first appear, and enjoy stem, leaves, shoots and all.

broccoli raab

Small heads beginning to flower.

It is also a heck of a lot faster from seed to table.
We planted our transplants out at the end of April, and they were ready to harvest in just 4 weeks.
Seriously, the other transplants were just coming out of transplant shock.

We found the flavor to be much milder than broccoli, so it is a good intro veggie for young ones and those who do not favor broccoli.

Whether you have had issues growing broccoli, have a short season, a small garden or are in a hurry to get some good eating, give broccoli raab a try.

you can grow that

You Can Grow That! is a collaborative effort on the part of garden writers around the world, to simply help others learn to grow. For more fun reads, click on the logo above.

Botanical name: Brassica rapa
Common names: broccoli raab, rabe, broccoletti
Hardiness: Prefers the cool. Transplant out early or direct seed well into spring and again in the fall. May over winter in some areas.
Days to maturity: From transplants 4 weeks, direct seed 6 weeks.
Height: About 24″
Seed source: Open pollinated.
Use: Culinary. Use the leaves, stems and heads as you would beet or turnip tops; raw in salads or cooked.

Categories: broccoli raab, you can grow that

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Possibly the Hardest Part of Gardening

At some point every spring, the hardest part of gardening arrives; resisting the urge to over plant.
Once everything is in, what is there to do?

Intercropping basil and tomatoes.

There is already basil in with the tomatoes.

gardening in zone 5 - 6

There are beans coming up in the corn bed.

Intercropping beans, squash and corn.

Even this corn bed is slated to have additional beans and some squash.

growing vegetables vertically

Even though there is room being conserved by growing vertically, it still is never enough.
So the only thing left to do now is wait.

intercropping vegetables

Oooh, except maybe there is a wee bit of space there, just enough for another squash mound.

And after that we will wait patiently, really.
Or, at least try to.

Categories: Addiction, jonesen'


How to Stop Seed Thieves

how to prevent critter seed theft

Photo by Sally Getz of part of her garden.

There are times when no sooner does a seed get planted than the battle with critters begins.

My Facebook friend Sally Getz of Colorado had been facing an annual mass seed theft in her garden until she came up with the fabulous idea.

She purchased cheap clear plastic cups from a dollar store.
After planting and watering her seeds, she dug in a cup over each one, bringing more soil around the cup to hold it in place and not let the winds blow it over.
She kept them watered as needed.

Not only did the cups protect the seeds, they acted as mini-cloches to keep the seeds warm and moist.
Of course this helped them sprout sooner.

Sally is one really determined gardener, she did this for over 800 seeds.
No replanting this year and we hope it will be her best garden ever
You grow girl!

Categories: gardening people, places & things, techniques


6 Ways to Help Insure Your Veggies Will Succeed

baby luffa plants

Baby luffas happy in their environment.

1. Plant in good soil.

With the possible exception of wasabi, few plants want to ‘get their feet wet’. Be sure to add plenty of compost and organic matter to your beds. This helps insure they will drain better. If you plant in a low lying area, try making mounds of soil to plant in, allowing excess water to collect away from the roots.

2. Don’t plant too soon, or too late.

Some veggies like the cold, such as peas and greens. Most beans however will actually rot if the soil is not warm enough for them. Similarly, plants such as lettuce and basil will bolt, or go to seed, if the weather gets too hot. A simple way to remember is to make a time chart of what to plant when.

3. Keep them moist until established.

This is true for both direct sewn seeds and transplants. The weather tries to do this naturally with spring showers, but it may not be enough. Once you can tell your transplants have settled in, just water as needed. When the majority of your direct sewn seeds are up, do the same for them.

4. Give them room to grow.

Thinning is a bother, but not thinning makes things much worse. Although we admit to planting closer together then is normally recommended, we still thin our carrots, beets and greens especially. Not thinning carrots will; have a negative impact on root development; not thinning beets can be disastrous to the entire crop. Thinning can be fun in a way, since in these 3 cases you can eat the plant tops you pull.

5. Keep them weed free.

Probably the least favorite chore of gardeners, weeds are better to prevent than deal with. Both mulch and landscaping plastic can help in this regard. Planting in containers is also a good way for many plants to grow with less threat of weeds getting in their space. Where possible, intercropping is a good way to help prevent weeds. We scatter basil seeds at the feet of our tomatoes, thinning as needed after they come up. The tomatoes offer the basil some shade in return, delaying bolting. It’s a nice symbiotic relationship.

6. Finally, know what you are growing.

A zucchini isn’t just a zucchini. Did you know some do well growing vertically? And a bean isn’t just a bean, either. A fava bean prefers the cold, a green bean hates it. Most of the information you need should be on the seed packet, but if you are growing something new, make a few notes.

Since you’re here reading this, you are obviously an informed gardener.
Kudos to you for that, and your plants will thank you!

corn and beans

Intercropping helps the health of some veggies.

Categories: gardening, techniques


Everything here is original (unless otherwise noted) and has legal copyright 2014 by Gardening Jones (tm), and cannot be re-posted or reproduced without permission. Any re-posting of information, photographs, and/or recipes is considered theft and subject to prosecution.

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